We’ve had a bunch of business-grade ultraportables pass through our labs lately and we’ve had a bunch of them disappoint us. This is the souped-up version of one of our favourite-ever portable laptops, though – the Dell XPS 13. Naturally, we expected great things from the new Dell XPS 13 Plus.
Table of Contents
- Design, handling & ergonomics
- Connectivity and ports
- Portability and battery life
- Price and availability
- 7 Alternatives to the Dell XPS 13 Plus
|Screen||13.4-inch, glossy, 60Hz, 3,456 x 2,160, OLED, touchscreen display|
|Processor||3.4–4.7GHz Intel Core i7-1260P CPU|
|Graphics||1.4GHz Intel Xe GPU|
|Hard drive||1 x 1TB PCIe NVMe|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6 Bluetooth 5.2 |
2 x Thunderbolt 4
(2x USB-C dongles: USB-A 3.0, 3.5mm audio jack)
|Speakers||4 x 2W speakers|
|Security||Windows Hello via fingerprint reader and webcam|
|Dimensions||295 x 199 x 15mm|
Design, handling & ergonomics
The Dell XPS 13 Plus is easy to identify, looking as it does, like every other Dell XPS laptop from the past several years. This is no bad thing – why change an iconic, winning formula? The aluminium chassis is both classy and incredibly robust. It’s also very thin and light, too.
Opening it up quickly reveals the ‘Plus’ parts of the laptop. There’s a very-thin bezel, 13.4-inch, glossy, OLED touchscreen display. It’s available with a Full HD IPS option or a ridonculously high-definition 3,840 x 2,400 IPS touchscreen too – we’re not sure how so many pixels could squeeze onto a such a small screen, but anyway.
Our Dell XPS 13 Plus had a 4K, UHD, 3,456 x 2,160 resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. We hoped it would have a fast pixel response time, like other OLED screens, but it’s not the fastest we’ve seen: you wouldn’t want to try and fast-and frantic gaming on it – not that that’s what this laptop is for.
It’s also a responsive touchscreen and does a decent job of fending off fingerprints.
Being an OLED does mean it is great for multimedia work, though. It displays very vibrant colours and excellent contrast with details remaining visible in dark and light areas and blacks being rendered as true black. Both colourful and monochromatic transitions are impressively smooth and the only issue is that, in dark scenes, the glossy screen acts as a black mirror. Being an OLED, there’s naturally no backlight bleed.
It also properly works with Windows HDR which means you can easily playback proper HDR content from streaming sites including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube without a hassle. It makes the stunning content look even stunninger.
The screen is seriously well augmented by the four speakers that Dell has somehow managed to squish into the tiny chassis. These combine to generate 8-Watts of audio power and they are among the best sounding units we’ve ever heard from any laptop, ever. Fidelity is superb from top to bottom, there’s punchy bass and they get very loud without distorting. They’re great for both movies and music.
Beneath the screen things start getting controversial. The Dell XPS 13 Plus’ high-concept, flat, light-grey ‘Zero-lattice’ keyboard has two levels of white backlighting. We’ve had trouble identifying lettering on white-on-white keys in the past, but that issue only surfaced in brightly lit environments. The keys proved very comfortable and accurate to type upon and our only minor gripe was having half-height, up-and-down, arrow keys.
Above the keyboard are white-back-lit, ‘touch’ buttons for brightness, volume etc. These become almost invisible in bright light and we were concerned that the lack of tactile ‘click’ would prove annoying but, fair play, they were very responsive.
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We got on less well with the Dell XPS 13 Plus’ invisible trackpad. It’s smooth and intuitive to operate – despite having no visible delineations as to where it is. It (almost) always managed to get left and right-clicking correct too. But, dragging and dropping anything turned into a tortuous affair. It’s not a massive flaw, but it ultimately seems a bit too clever for its own good.
A fingerprint reader doubles as the power button next to the backspace key and it’s Windows Hello compatible. So, is the Full HD webcam above the screen. This and the dual-array mics are very good for web-conferencing thanks to a very sharp image and the crisp-and-clear audio being captured.
We did note that the Dell XPS 13 Plus would get a little warm, even when only doing light office work. You can play around with the performance profiles to adjust fans and cooling (the fans are always very quiet) but we couldn’t quite escape the heat – it’s almost a trademark of Dell XPSes at this point, anyway.
Inside the Dell XPS 13 Plus is a 12th Gen, 3.4–4.7GHz Intel Core i7-1260P processor with four Performance Cores and 8 Efficiency cores. It’s flanked by a generous 32GB of low-power, LPDDR5-5200 RAM plus a 1TB hard drive (16GB and 2TB are also available with Dell’s configurator).
In the general-computing, PCMark 10 test it scored a respectable 5,490 which is decent for any portable laptop. It also managed 1,721 and 9,393 in the Cinebench rendering tests (R15 and R23 respectively) which indicates it won’t leave renderers hanging around too long.
3D performance comes via integrated Intel Xe graphics and so we didn’t expect much. It wouldn’t run the difficult 3DMark ray-tracing tests but it did score 1,997 in the AAA-game-a-like Time Spy test which is an average of 11fps. It also managed 2,631 in the similar Fire Strike Extreme test (11.5fps). However, its score of 18,099 (average 108.4fps) in Night Raid shows it can play casual and competitive games.
We also ran our latest test which is based on the ancient CS:GO. Running Ulletical’s FPS benchmark for 90 seconds saw it average just 23.5fps which dropped to an average of only 3fps for the lowest, one per cent of the test’s frames. This ‘1% Low’ test tells us that, when the screen gets busy with smoke grenades, the average frame rate plummets to completely unplayable levels.
The whole test tortures the CPU and GPU (and the whole Dell XPS 13 Plus in general) and the power surge showed us that it gets very hot at the centre of the base when under load but that the fans only ramp up to a mild whoosh at worst. Despite the heat, we didn’t notice any thermal throttling.
Connectivity and ports
We understand why laptop makers want to be minimalist but come on… one of these ports is used by the charger too! Dell does include a USB-A 3.0 adapter with the XPS 13 Plus, plus a 3.5mm audio jack dongle. However, in true dongle fashion, the 3.5mm connector was lost before reaching us and we misplaced the USB-A adapter ourselves. Grrr.
Inside, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 provide wireless connectivity.
Portability and battery life
The Dell XPS 13 Plus’ slight chassis is very tough and will survive life on the road very well. It also weighs just 1.27KG and the small USB-C charger adds just 258g to that. It’s barely there.
It struggled to run our PCMark 10 Modern Office battery tests without crashing but, when it did succeed, it lasted for a mediocre (for an ultraportable) 8 hours 11 minutes. Still, that’s a whole day out of the office and Dell states that it should only last seven hours with a touchscreen. However, the Full HD (non-touchscreen) variant can push to over 13 hours which would turn many heads and boost the portability score.
Price and availability
The Dell XPS 13 Plus currently costs $4,099 but check for any sales as you could save a grand from that total. Dropping everything to the base spec will also chop $1,200 off the price but doing so also removes any sale discounts.
It’s not cheap and it’s in a crowded market. However, its screen, speakers, weight and build quality are second to none.
7 Alternatives to the Dell XPS 13 Plus
We’ve reviewed many business ultraportables lately. Here are the main alternatives to the Dell XPS 13 Plus.
More powerful | Much cheaper | Weaker ergonomics | More portable
More power | Less expensive | More portable | Weaker ergonomics
Business focused | Fingerprint magnet | Convertible | Much cheaper
More powerful | More expensive | More features | More portable
Much cheaper | Less powerful | Convertible | More security | Very corporate
– Asus Expertbook B7 Flip
Much cheaper | Convertible | Larger | Many more ports
– Huawei Matebook 14
Very cheap | More portable | Less powerful | Less robust
We really want to like the Dell XPS 13 Plus more than we do. However, we eventually got driven to distraction by the invisible trackpad which, when it didn’t make dragging and dropping a tortuous task, would annoy us further by dragging and dropping things we didn’t want dragged or dropped in the first place.
It also gets rather warm when under load but at least it never gets noisy. It made us keen to see the latest, straight XPS 13 model though – it may address some of these foibles. Watch this space.
Ultimately, the Dell XPS 13 Plus has got many good points but it has flaws and is very expensive in a competitive market. If you do really want one, hopefully your workplace has a deal with Dell and they can lease one for you.
Stunning HDR OLED screen
Desll XPS 13 Plus results
A stunning OLED screen with HDR, unbelievable speakers and an ultra-light, robust chassis are the plus points. But the high-concept trackpad undermines it.